Pro-family activists in California are asking citizens to urge Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown to veto a bill some critics say would effectively ban the sale of the Bible in the state.
AB 2943 classifies as “consumer fraud” any financial transaction – such as selling a book or charging for a seminar – related to counseling people to overcome same-sex attractions.
The bill has been disputed hotly for months and last month was delayed voluntarily in the state Senate. But now the Senate has voted 25-11 to adopt it, sending it back to the Assembly where Senate changes must be approved.
It then could go to the governor.
The legislation comes amid the release of a Liberty Counsel study showing that such therapies overwhelmingly are effective.
The study is “Effects of Therapy on Religious Men Who Have Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction,” and authors Paul Santero, Neil Whitehead and Dolores Ballesteros, all PhDs, found the American Psychological Association and other organizations “have formally claimed that sexual orientation change therapies should not be used because they are probably ineffective and may cause harm.”
“A survey asking for negative and positive experiences of 125 men with active lay religious belief who went through sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) strongly conflict with those claims. In our study, most of those who participated in group or professional help had heterosexual shifts in sexual attraction, sexual identity and behavior with large statistical effect sizes, similarly moderate-to-marked decreases in suicidality, depression, substance abuse, and increases in social functioning and self -esteem. Almost all harmful effects were none to slight.”
The results, Liberty Counsel explained, “strongly refutes claims the American Psychological Association and other organizations have made aimed at discouraging counsel to change unwanted same-sex attractions, behavior, and identity.”
The organization has filed multiple lawsuits over local and region restrictions that are similar elsewhere in the nation.
But the activists at SaveCalifornia.com have called the plan “unconstitutional” and “un-American.”
Several organizations have promised lawsuits if it is signed into law.
“Authored by eight homosexual-activist Democrats, AB 2943 would, for all practical purposes, prohibit California adults from choosing to obtain professional, expert counseling to help them overcome their unwanted homosexual desires or gender confusion,” said a SaveCalifornia.com report.
Specifically, it would call “an unlawful practice prohibited under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act” anything to advertise, offer for sale, or sell services “constituting sexual orientation change efforts.”
The group warned it also would “censor the religious speech of churches, para-church ministries, and pastors if they hold a conference or event or sell a book about overcoming same-sex desires.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom also has opposed the proposal.
“At its core, AB 2943 outlaws speech, whether offered by a licensed counselor, a best-selling author, or even a minister or religious leader,” ADF said. “It targets a specific message – that an adult who is experiencing unwanted same-sex attraction or gender identity confusion can find help to address those issues – for censorship. The breadth of this censorship is staggering.”
At its widest reach, it would forbid stores, including websites such as Amazon, from selling books “challenging gender identity ideology and advocating that these beliefs should be rejected by society.”
“How can any legislator voting for this call themselves pro-choice when they’ve voted to wipe out a person’s own choice of a counselor?” asked Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com. “How can any legislator voting for AB 2943 say they support religious freedom when they’ve just threatened church bookstores that sell self-help books about overcoming unwanted same-sex desires? AB 2943 is anti-free-speech, anti-religious-freedom, anti-free-choice, and has no place in a free society. This intolerant bill contains no exemption and no protection at all for religious entities.”
He warned that the U.S. Supreme Court already decided in NIFLA v. Becerra that the free-speech rights of organizations and professionals need to be protected.
WND reported when Gov. Mike Huckabee, now a news commentator, warned of “a terrible storm that’s brewing on the horizon.”
It would ban counseling, conferences and even printed materials that advocate for ways to get rid of unwanted same-sex attractions. And several experts have not only confirmed the vaguely written proposal could ban sales of Bibles, but one ministry has announced it will no longer hold its conferences in the state.
“You may have heard the news or seen the reports, but people of faith in California are bracing for one of the most dramatic ideological shifts away from the First Amendment in our nation’s history,” Huckabee said. “It’s the kind of storm that destroys the foundations of liberty and a free society.”
Huckabee said it “prevents faith-led counselors from assisting clients with same-sex attraction or gender confusion. It prohibits churches from holding any ticketed events addressing topics of sexuality.”
“But it’s FAR more reaching than that,” he said. “This means the sale of ANY book that states the practice of homosexuality or transgender identification as immoral actions would be illegal in California. … This could include the Bible!”
He said sponsors deny it, but the “legal experts agree that AB 2943 is so broadly worded in its description of prohibited activities that it can easily be interpreted to stop the sale goods and services that promote a biblical worldview!”
He warned, “This is a massive attack on Christianity. It should alarm us that the constitutional problems inherent in the bill were not obvious to those in the California Assembly.”
WND reported a Colorado-based Christian group canceled conferences it planned to hold in the Golden State and instead will send students to “other states where we can tell them the truth.”
Jeff Myers, president of Summit Ministries, explained his group helps students “develop an intelligent, defensible Christian worldview before they go to college.”
He called the wording of the bill “a dog whistle to the left that intelligent Christians holding traditional views are fair game for discrimination, smears and frivolous lawsuits.”
His group, he said, for 55 years has held conferences at its headquarters in Manitou Springs, Colorado, and across the nation, “training nearly a half-million young Christians to become leaders in their schools, communities, churches, families and country.”
Summit Ministries, however, canceled its June 10-23 and June 24-July 7 sessions at Biola University near Los Angeles “due to concerns that California will forbid some of what it teaches.”
Myers said his group’s speakers are “leading Christian experts who base their presentations on theology as well as sociology, psychology and science.”
WND has reported a lawmaker and an LGBT activist have admitted the bill targets “pastors” and members of the “faith community.”
A video shows California state Assembly member Al Muratsuchi admitting that he wants to target people of faith.
The lawmaker argued the First Amendment “does not prohibit banning fraudulent conduct.”
“The faith community, like anyone else, needs to evolve with the times,” he charged.
Liberty Counsel, one of the first to raise concerns about the bill, explained it is so broad it “bans books, printed materials and advertisements that provide information that a person facing unwanted same-sex attractions or gender confusion can change.”
And further, in a speech at Google headquarters, LGBT activist Samuel Brinton promised to “figure out” how to stop “pastors” and churches from offering such counseling.
“I may not be able to find every little camp … every pastor, but I can make it something that is culturally unacceptable,” he said. “Yes, it’s directly affecting mental health professionals, but by proxy, it’s affecting everyone else.”
A longtime professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Robert A.J. Gagnon, the author of “The Bible and Homosexual Practice,” has some concerns. He wrote at The Federalist of the dangers.
The bill poses legal jeopardy for a “Bible study or house church leader, member of a parachurch organization working to help people afflicted by same-sex attractions, or indeed anybody who attempts change if goods or services involve an exchange of funds.”
“Read the bill. There is no religious exemption. There is no restriction to mental health professionals. There is not even a restriction to claims about changing a person’s sexual orientation or transgender feelings in whole or part. The bill is quite clear that any ‘efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions’ are included in the ban on attempts to change a person’s ‘sexual orientation,'” he said.
He continued: “So you would be violating the law if you advertise that Christ can empower people not to engage in homosexual practice or not to identify as ‘gay’ or ‘transgender’ because such behaviors and self-identities are morally wrong, or if you offer to engage or actually engage in efforts to persuade people of Christ’s power to transform in this area, you will be in violation of California AB 2943, at least so long as your advertising or efforts involved in any way an exchange of money for goods or services.”
Violations of A.B. 2943 could, he said, include “selling religious or secular books (pamphlets, videos, audios, etc.), holding conferences, teaching courses in a college or seminary where tuition is paid, giving a speech at a paid venue, counseling people for a fee, or perhaps even posting online articles in a site that requires a paid subscription, in which it is asserted (in whole or part) that it is morally wrong for people to engage in homosexual practice or identify as ‘gay’ or ‘transgender.'”